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BigDon
2010-Aug-20, 05:28 PM
Oddly enough I find myself in need of a mortar and pestle. Finding myself doing too much grinding using a heavy shotglass and the handle of a sharpening steel and decided to get the right tool for the job. Tired of half the crap flying out and about the room.

What does one look for when you purchase a mortar and pestle? At least three places within walking distances sell them. (One pharmacy and two Santeria supply stores.)

novaderrik
2010-Aug-20, 05:56 PM
i'm sure you can get the cooler ones at the stores with the large glass "tobacco pipes" on the shelf.

PetersCreek
2010-Aug-20, 06:02 PM
I have a nice heavy marble model, about 6 inches in diameter I think. The well is fairly deep but still, coriander and peppercorns have a tendency to shoot out of it. With a do-over, I'd have gone a little bigger. Something to consider.

Gillianren
2010-Aug-20, 08:34 PM
You want one nice and heavy. Alton Brown does not recommend marble; he says you don't get a good enough grip. As I recall, he suggests ceramic, but I don't remember for sure.

Swift
2010-Aug-20, 08:38 PM
It depends upon what you want to grind.

If you are using it for food products or something similar (pills for example), then as far as the material, just look for something that doesn't have a very porous surface (some of the cheaper ceramic ones are more porous). I would agree with Peterscreek that the marble ones are nice. As far as design, I tend to like the deeper ones - less likely for stuff to fly out.

If you are grinding something harder, then you need to think more about materials of construction. The best ones are made of agate, but they are very expensive.

Squink
2010-Aug-20, 09:38 PM
Coors makes decent mortar and pestles. (http://www.google.com/products?q=coors+mortar+pestle&oe=utf-8&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&client=firefox-a&um=1&ie=UTF-8&ei=9vRuTPbcG8OB8ga25-W-DA&sa=X&oi=product_result_group&ct=title&resnum=3&ved=0CDAQrQQwAg)

They tend to be a little pricey, but the face of their pestles fit their mortars properly. That gives you a quicker, cleaner grind.

John Jaksich
2010-Aug-20, 09:52 PM
Hey BigDon---

You might want to order from Edmund Scientific:

http://scientificsonline.com/search.asp?t=ss&ss=Mortar+and+Pestle&x=0&y=0


or Aldrich Chemical Company (?)-->

http://www.sigmaaldrich.com/catalog/Lookup.do?N5=All&N3=mode+matchpartialmax&N4=Mortar+and+Pestle&D7=0&D10=Mortar+and+Pestle&N1=S_ID&ST=RS&N25=0&F=PR

PetersCreek
2010-Aug-20, 09:55 PM
Alton Brown does not recommend marble; he says you don't get a good enough grip.

By "grip" do you (or Alton) mean bite at the grinding surfaces or hand grip? The working surfaces of mine aren't polished. Even though everything else is nice and shiny, I can't say I've noticed a grip problem.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Aug-20, 10:04 PM
I have two, one in cast iron which I made as part of a course introducing the various manufacturing technologies used with iron and steel, one marble which Chrissy gave me when she visited Denmark.
13588
The marble one's definitely nicest to use, large enough to mash up two whole garlic bulbs at once, and it won't rust like I just noticed the cast iron one is doing.

Nick Theodorakis
2010-Aug-20, 10:43 PM
You want one nice and heavy. Alton Brown does not recommend marble; he says you don't get a good enough grip. As I recall, he suggests ceramic, but I don't remember for sure.

Lab mortars/pestles are ceramic, fwiw.

Nick

pzkpfw
2010-Aug-20, 11:16 PM
Last night I crushed Garlic in our metal one. (I don't have a clue what it's made of. It doesn't seem to be cast iron; but neither is it shiny stainless steel... though it doesn't rust).

I believe it came from India; if there's a local spice store - something specialising in Indian foods - you might find something nice. Many such shops sell the spices, foods and also cooking implements.

I've had (what must have been cheap, low quality) marble ones start to disintegrate under use.

Moose
2010-Aug-20, 11:25 PM
Heh, I have a gorgeous (decorative!) one my parents' neighbor made out of bird-eye maple. I wouldn't want to try grinding anything in it, but it looks great in my china cabinet.

Gillianren
2010-Aug-20, 11:48 PM
By "grip" do you (or Alton) mean bite at the grinding surfaces or hand grip? The working surfaces of mine aren't polished. Even though everything else is nice and shiny, I can't say I've noticed a grip problem.

As I recall (I don't even remember in which episode he talked about it; spices?), he meant bite at the grinding surfaces. He didn't feel there was enough resistance. As I don't myself own a mortar and pestle or have a requirement for one--especially given my limited kitchen space--I have no real opinion of my own. However, I am also constitutionally incapable of participating in a cooking discussion wherein I don't bring up Alton.

BigDon
2010-Aug-21, 12:05 AM
Seeing as how they don't make bird's eye maple anymore, (the growing conditions no longer exist, hence its great value), I wouldn't grind anything in it either. I've seen with my own eyes rickety wooden chairs made of the stuff that were insured for more than $17,000 a piece. (Full dining room set. That was just the chairs. You wouldn't believe me if I told you how much the three leaf diningroom table was.) Though the *expensive* rickety wooden chairs were made by Alexander Hamilton's brother-in-law. As my customer nervously related to me as I was preparing all of said pieces for shipment. I'm a furniture mover I know these things.

Yeah, I'm grinding high quality fish food pellets for my smaller fish. Plus mixing medications with same at least three to four times a year. My brother thinks we ought to get two and that I should label the fish food one as "non-food only" I think he's being a bit of a putz but if you guys here have anything to say on the subject, I'll listen. I've never own one so I know nothing about cleaning them. Is marble dishwasher safe?

swampyankee
2010-Aug-21, 02:45 AM
Is marble dishwasher safe? It won't be damaged by the heat -- the water in a dishwasher doesn't get much about 160F -- but it may be damaged by the dishwasher detergent, which can be quite corrosive.

John Jaksich
2010-Aug-21, 02:56 AM
You might try an agate--mortar pestle ----> used primarily for IR spectra preparations.

It should stand up nicely --but it is small . . . if all you are going to do is feed the fish?

Aldrich--does have it----but might be pricey

John Jaksich
2010-Aug-21, 03:01 AM
You might try an agate--mortar pestle ----> used primarily for IR spectra preparations.

It should stand up nicely --but it is small . . . if all you are going to do is feed the fish?

Aldrich--does have it----but might be pricey


Let me please re-phrase that----> the regular agate Mortar and Pestle---would be just fine----when I used them many years ago---they stood up to almost anything!

The ir mortar & pestle would not be appropriate---sorry to mislead you.

Trebuchet
2010-Aug-21, 03:02 AM
Yeah, I'm grinding high quality fish food pellets for my smaller fish. Plus mixing medications with same at least three to four times a year. My brother thinks we ought to get two and that I should label the fish food one as "non-food only" I think he's being a bit of a putz but if you guys here have anything to say on the subject, I'll listen. I've never own one so I know nothing about cleaning them. Is marble dishwasher safe?

Just be careful what you grind there Don. Stella Nickell (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stella_Nickell) had a mortar and pestle for her aquarium hobby but also used it to grind cyanide for her husband, which turned out to be a key piece of evidence though not mentioned in the Wiki article.

Swift
2010-Aug-21, 03:20 AM
As I recall (I don't even remember in which episode he talked about it; spices?), he meant bite at the grinding surfaces. He didn't feel there was enough resistance. As I don't myself own a mortar and pestle or have a requirement for one--especially given my limited kitchen space--I have no real opinion of my own. However, I am also constitutionally incapable of participating in a cooking discussion wherein I don't bring up Alton.
I like Alton, but if that is what he said, then he doesn't know how to use a mortar and pestle.

In much of my solid state chemistry work I've used agate mortar and pestles. They have no bite at the grinding surface - you don't want such a thing. The bite as you describe it comes from roughness and porosity on the surface. Yes, it might initially make it a little easier to grind, but the problem is that it acts as a trap for the materials you grind, makes the surfaces difficult to clean, and leads to cross contamination.

What really gives you the grinding action is (1) the pressure you put on the material as you trap it between the mortar and the pestle (it is a crushing, not an abrasion like with sandpaper), and (2) as you start generating fine material, the material itself becomes the grinding medium for the larger particles remaining.

That's why smooth, dense and hard surfaces, like agate, marble, and dense ceramics, make the best materials.

But for what BD wants to do, this is probably all overkill.

HenrikOlsen
2010-Aug-21, 12:20 PM
What really gives you the grinding action is (1) the pressure you put on the material as you trap it between the mortar and the pestle (it is a crushing, not an abrasion like with sandpaper), and (2) as you start generating fine material, the material itself becomes the grinding medium for the larger particles remaining.
Which is why one often adds coarse salt to the bits to grind to have a grinding medium to begin with.

Ara Pacis
2010-Aug-21, 03:27 PM
Or use a pepper mill for the first grind and then pulverize it more with the mortar and pestle.

BigDon
2010-Aug-21, 04:17 PM
I knew about her Treb. Bad piece of work that. One time one of my much younger friends asked about how as certain prank was correctly done regarding the use of laxitives on unsuspecting people and I went on cheerily explaining several ways this could be done when I realized this wasn't a rhetorical question, mainly by the amount of attention I was receiving, we're talking nearly taking notes.

I had to pause my oration a moment.

"But of course you don't actuall want to do that to somebody because that you would make you a poisoner."

And I was rewarded by a startled stammer from my audience. I said, "It doesn't matter if it's not lethal, it would make you a poisoner, and that's never a good name to have, in any culture."

Thank you for the input guys.

Ara, tried that with the pellets and my friends kept making terrible mistakes with it.

JohnD
2010-Aug-21, 10:19 PM
Don,
If the pellets are dry, then a gadget like the coffee grinder that fits on our Moulinex food blender would do the job, with a lot less work!

As well as coffee, ours will 'grind' anyhting dry into powder; sugar granules into a finer 'icing' sugar than I've ever seen, dried herbs as well.
I think it would deal with fish pellets easily, though you might need to keep it just for that job.

A stand-alone version is a "blade" coffee grinder, apparently.

John

geonuc
2010-Aug-21, 10:30 PM
For a mortar & pestle, it's all about the feel of the pestle in your hand. If you're grinding something hard, you don't want it to hurt your palm.

I have a dedicated spice grinder for dry stuff and only get the M & P out for wet mashes.

Ara Pacis
2010-Aug-22, 04:28 AM
Don,
If the pellets are dry, then a gadget like the coffee grinder that fits on our Moulinex food blender would do the job, with a lot less work!

As well as coffee, ours will 'grind' anyhting dry into powder; sugar granules into a finer 'icing' sugar than I've ever seen, dried herbs as well.
I think it would deal with fish pellets easily, though you might need to keep it just for that job.

A stand-alone version is a "blade" coffee grinder, apparently.

John

Right, I was thinking of peppercorns instead of the fish food. There are burr grinders for coffee in cone or flat forms, but also the blade chopper types. The blade chopper type might be better for flaky items.

Squink
2010-Aug-22, 11:37 PM
Right, I was thinking of peppercorns instead of the fish food. There are burr grinders for coffee in cone or flat forms, but also the blade chopper types. The blade chopper type might be better for flaky items.I use a blade type coffee grinder to grind up pepper, nutmeg etc. You can greatly improve the efficiency of the units by taking off the blade, and sharpening the entire length of the leading edges. As sold, there's only a bit at the ends that's sharp, and the rest of the blade serves only to bounce your nutmeg, or whatever, out of the way of that sharpness.

Marble isn't used much in the lab, or in my kitchen, because it (CaCO3 and the like) is susceptible to acid etching by acids as weak as vinegar.

Gillianren
2010-Aug-23, 04:06 PM
Yeah, I'm grinding high quality fish food pellets for my smaller fish. Plus mixing medications with same at least three to four times a year. My brother thinks we ought to get two and that I should label the fish food one as "non-food only" I think he's being a bit of a putz but if you guys here have anything to say on the subject, I'll listen. I've never own one so I know nothing about cleaning them. Is marble dishwasher safe?

Having reread what you just said, instead of what I thought you were saying, I'm with you. If you're planning to use one not for fish food, yeah, get two. But if you're not, what do you need a second one for?


I like Alton, but if that is what he said, then he doesn't know how to use a mortar and pestle.

Entirely possible. As I've never needed one myself, and I don't remember for sure if that's what he said, I have no real stake in the game. He is wrong sometimes. I do know that.

Ara Pacis
2010-Aug-23, 06:04 PM
Entirely possible. As I've never needed one myself, and I don't remember for sure if that's what he said, I have no real stake in the game. He is wrong sometimes. I do know that.

I know he has reversed himself a few times on camera. I also recall him discussing how to reuse a marinade for a sauce and how the judges on The Next Food Network Star were aghast when a contestant did just that. I'd just blame his research interns.

Gillianren
2010-Aug-23, 06:52 PM
Or, of course, new information has surfaced. It happens.

jj_0001
2010-Aug-25, 06:34 PM
Probably paid too much, but we got a 4" diameter deep one from Williams-Sonoma.

For bashing up sea salt, peppercorns, and various herbs/spices for cooking, it works like a champ.

jj_0001
2010-Aug-25, 06:36 PM
I use a blade type coffee grinder to grind up pepper, nutmeg etc. You can greatly improve the efficiency of the units by taking off the blade, and sharpening the entire length of the leading edges. As sold, there's only a bit at the ends that's sharp, and the rest of the blade serves only to bounce your nutmeg, or whatever, out of the way of that sharpness.

Marble isn't used much in the lab, or in my kitchen, because it (CaCO3 and the like) is susceptible to acid etching by acids as weak as vinegar.


You need to be careful with a blade grinder that has a plastic top. We tried this, and the harder spices took bits of the plastic top with them. This was not a good thing.

Fazor
2010-Aug-25, 06:45 PM
Probably paid too much, but we got a 4" diameter deep one from Williams-Sonoma.

For bashing up sea salt, peppercorns, and various herbs/spices for cooking, it works like a champ.

Which one? I just picked one up in July (though I haven't used it yet!) I wanted the stone one they had, because I think it looks nicer. Tara convinced me that function is more important, and that the stone one would be harder to keep clean (with all it's bumps and crannies). I got the ceramic one instead; the pestle is a heavy ceramic head with a wood handle for grip. It was more than I'd normally spend, but we had a $50 gift card to Williams-Sonoma that Tara got as a reward for her credit card points.

jj_0001
2010-Aug-25, 06:54 PM
Which one?

Unh... The one in my kitchen? :)

Sorry, it's at home, I'm not. But I think it's ceramic. Has no wood handle, though. We picked the one that was deepest, so as to avoid scatter. We gave away an older one that was shallow, and resulted in counter-distribution.

Lord Jubjub
2010-Aug-26, 01:11 AM
I know he has reversed himself a few times on camera. I also recall him discussing how to reuse a marinade for a sauce and how the judges on The Next Food Network Star were aghast when a contestant did just that. I'd just blame his research interns.

I would go with AB on this one. He used the marinade as a flavoring for his sauce that was cooked well above pasteurization temperatures. I've often felt that some of the Food Network judges are far too ready to cede the ick factor and not realize that the food is perfectly safe to eat.

Fazor
2010-Aug-26, 02:21 AM
When I marinade chicken I almost always use the juices to glaze it when on the grill. The heat cooks the marinade the same way the heat cooks the chicken . . .

Ara Pacis
2010-Aug-26, 05:42 AM
If you had spent any time in the ground-based military, you'd have learned how to smash things up pretty well with a mortar and pistol.

Ara Pacis
2010-Aug-26, 05:45 AM
I would go with AB on this one. He used the marinade as a flavoring for his sauce that was cooked well above pasteurization temperatures. I've often felt that some of the Food Network judges are far too ready to cede the ick factor and not realize that the food is perfectly safe to eat.

I've done it before, but I'm not sure which is the best idea. Perhaps the problem could be not with the live bacteria themselves, but with any toxins they might have produced.

PetersCreek
2010-Aug-26, 06:52 AM
The way I see it, if bacteria have produced toxins in your marinade, they've produced toxins in your meat. I may be missing something but as long as food safety precautions are observed, I don't have much of a problem with treating the marinade as an edible food product, just like the meat that came out of it.

Ara Pacis
2010-Aug-26, 07:56 PM
The way I see it, if bacteria have produced toxins in your marinade, they've produced toxins in your meat. I may be missing something but as long as food safety precautions are observed, I don't have much of a problem with treating the marinade as an edible food product, just like the meat that came out of it.

It may depend on how long you leave it out in the danger zone, or the volume of the marinade versus the external area of the meat and the possible differences in cooking temperature and method of cooking. I'm not making a claim, I'm trying to figure out why others who are in the know, are.